Peter Brosius calls his cast for Mercy Watson to the Rescue! a "super group of Twin Cities' comedy." That's really not overstating the case, as the Children's Theatre Company cast includes Sara Richardson as the title pig, Wendy Lehr as her nemesis, plus Gerald Drake, Reed Sigmund, Mo Perry, Elizabeth Griffith, and Jason Ballweber.
"They talk about casting as being 90 percent of directing. I have an incredible group of people, and they were all my first choices. That is something that doesn't happen," Brosius says.
As in Kate DiCamillo's books, Mercy Watson the pig is out to find the perfect piece of toast. It's this desire that drives her to do heroic things. To help build up the story for the stage, character arcs were given to the rest of the cast by scriptwriter Victoria Stewart. "She has a really good eye and has been with us at every single moment in the rehearsal room and at tech. We have gone through a forest of trees with all of the drafts," Brosius says.
Considerations like that are important in bringing a book, or any story, to the stage. "It's a piece that both stays true to the book and reinvents it for the theater. You are faced with the challenge of making something completely new out of it. I hope the audience takes as much delight in these versions of the characters," he says.
This has not just been crafted by the performers and the adaptation, but by the entire creative team, which includes costumes by Sonya Berlovitz, set design by Eric Van Wyk, lights by Paul Whitaker, and an original score by Victor Zupanc.
"Victor created a score that both lifts the whole world up and gives it a kind of unique life," Brosius says. "People don't talk about the power of music or the power of light in the theater, but good designers think like dramaturges and directors. They are major storytellers. It's a joy to have colleagues like that because they are pushing the story forward."
Early previews have gone well, though there are still a couple of days of rehearsals -- and changes -- to go through before the show opens Friday.
"It's a play that really looks at how people can be locked into their perceptions, how we put our perceptions on other people, and how they get in the way. In its fun and farcical elements, the play gives us wonderful things to think about," Brosius says.